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Lisa Petrie

Lisa Petrie is a writer and specialist in marketing and public relations for arts and education organizations. She earned a DMA in flute performance from SUNY, Stony Brook, and is the mother of two musical kids. Lisa was the Content Manager for the Kids and Families section of San Francisco Classical Voice during 2011.

Articles by this Author

Artist Spotlight
February 2, 2010

Few artists have had the kind of impact on the world at large as violinist Midori’s. Almost 30 years after her famous debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 11, Midori champions music as the message of peace in her fight for social justice and environmental sustainability.

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Upcoming Concert
January 10, 2010
Composers and directors often combine art forms in their quest for artistic expression and interesting programming. Pairing music and dance, or music with a visual element, spices up a concert. Yet the California Symphony’s concert on Jan. 24 and 26, with political satirist Will Durst narrating Aaron Copland's A Lincoln Portrait might just be one of the more unique collaborations to hit the Bay Area this month.

A Lincoln Portrait was one of three new works commissioned by conductor André Kostelanetz following the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. Copland’s piece is written for speaker and orchestra, and uses quotations from Abraham Lincoln’s own letters and speeches (including the Gettysburg Address) as well as the 18th-century ballad “Springfield Mountain” and Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races.” The purpose — to inspire unity and excite patriotism in the country. Says the California Symphony’s Music Director, Barry Jekowsky, who programmed the work, “When I think about the world we live in, it’s not so different from that era.”

Typically, political figures or actors are called upon to narrate the piece, but Jekowsky’s group has proven itself anything but typical. He says: “With the California Symphony, I really like to make the act of going to the symphony a fresh one. Even if people are coming to hear works they’ve heard before, we like to provide a little twist that adds a bit more value to their experience. It changes the way they listen to the music.” Anyone who attended last season’s Symphonic Concert in 3D, complete with 3D glasses, can attest to the adventurous spirit of this orchestra. And the participation of Durst, who has been called “quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today,” in the New York Times, should prove equally refreshing.

Will Durst is a five-time Emmy nominee and was the first comic to perform at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He has been nominated seven consecutive times for the American Comedy Awards’ Standup of the Year. A regular commentator for, Air America, CNN, and NPR, Durst also writes a nationally syndicated Op-Ed column, and for The San Francisco Chronicle. While A Lincoln Portrait is likely to be taken seriously for the profound words therein, Durst will bring his interpretation to the work, as well as deliver a short encore of his own comic discourse.

The rest of the program includes fairly traditional fare: Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D Major ("Haffner") and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 in A Minor ("Scottish). And as Chronicle critic Joshua Kosman put it, “the orchestra's mastery of standard orchestral repertoire remains impressive.” Jekowsky believes that because the orchestra has not played these particular masterworks in its 23-year history, it will bring an eager approach to the performance. It’s all in keeping with his mission: “In order for the symphonic experience to exist in the future, we need to hold to our principles but also enrich and surprise the audience.”

More about California Symphony »
Upcoming Concert
January 5, 2010
The Santa Rosa Symphony, under Music Director Bruno Ferrandis, has put together a program for Jan. 23-25 that appeals on many levels. Highlights of this special exposition of American orchestral works include a tribute to Samuel Barber, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, and John Corigliano’s music from the Academy Award–winning film The Red Violin. Led by returning Bay Area favorite JoAnn Falletta as guest conductor, this mélange rates as a must-hear experience.

Falletta and the orchestra open the program with Elliot Carter’s Holiday Overture. One of America’s most significant composers, Carter is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize who just celebrated his 101st birthday in December. As Carter tells the story, when rival composer Aaron Copland looked at the Overture he said, “Another hard piece by Carter!” If that description is accurate, never fear, for Copland’s own popular El Salón México provides gentle relief later in the program.

Next up is the SRS debut of accomplished violinist Michael Ludwig and a chance to hear Corigliano’s Red Violin Concerto — a work that has rapidly taken its place in the serious classical violin repertoire. Corigliano originally scored the music to François Gira’s film The Red Violin, with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell performing, winning an Oscar for best soundtrack in 1999. He then reconceived the music as a violin concerto for Bell, who recorded it in 2007. In the hands of such a masterful composer and orchestrator, the story of a haunted violin, spanning three centuries of travels through time, style, and setting, is both haunting and powerful.

Rising star Ludwig is a natural choice as soloist, having recently recorded the concerto with Corigliano, Falletta, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, set for release by Naxos this year. (Falletta and that orchestra’s recording of Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan with soprano Hila Plitmann won a Grammy in two categories in 2009 — Best Classical Vocal Performance and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.)

Concluding the concert with Barber’s Symphony No. 1 sets the trend for the coming year of tributes for this composer, born on March 9, 1910; he died in January 1981. Look for copious amounts of Barber programming this year, in celebrations from Detroit to Denver, especially in Pennsylvania, Barber’s birthplace, and at the Curtis Institute, which he attended. That’s good news for listeners who enjoy the more traditional style of long, lyrical lines and lush, relatively tonal harmonies, which made him one of America’s most popular composers for years.

It’s a fitting concert for the likes of ardent new-music champion JoAnn Falletta. SRS music director Bruno Ferrandis met Falletta as a colleague in graduate school in New York at Juilliard. Bay Area audiences know her intimately as the music director of the San Francisco–based Women’s Philharmonic from 1986 to 1997, among other engagements, including as guest conductor with the San Francisco Symphony. With the now-defunct Women’s Philharmonic she furthered the group’s mission to create awareness of the music of women composers, released three CDs with them, and captured several ASCAP Adventurous Programming awards. She is currently Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra

More about Santa Rosa Symphony »
Artist Spotlight
December 22, 2009

Garrick Ohlsson talks about performing as a musician from the West, dining out in San Francisco, performance rituals, and reviews.

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Upcoming Concert
December 14, 2009
For those ready to cleanse their palates of holiday music and dig into something savory for the New Year, Benjamin Simon and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra offer a smattering of everything at which they excel. In their series of free New Year’s concerts, called “Double Trouble,” they present promising youth, a world premiere, and fantastic musicians playing traditional repertoire. And don’t miss a chance to lead the orchestra during this series by placing a bid on eBay now. (Proceeds benefit the orchestra, of course.)

The first half of the evening is a study on concertos for two instruments, beginning with two debut artists, cellists Isabel Lau and Benjamin Luo performing Vivaldi’s Double Cello Concerto in G Minor. Isabel, a freshman at Mercy High School in San Francisco, began studying at age 6 with Irene Sharp. At 14, she already sports an impressive list of accomplishments. She’s a former coprincipal of the Peninsula Youth Orchestra and regularly attends prestigious summer festivals such as Music at Menlo and the Yehudi Menuhin Festival. Isabel also plays chamber music in the Prep Division of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was a semifinalist in 2009 for the ASTA National Solo Competition.

Benjamin, a 15-year-old sophomore at St. Francis High School, also studies with Sharp and is equally gifted. He is currently in the California Youth Symphony Senior Orchestra, and has attended the California Summer Music camp, among others. It’s a rare treat to hear two such talented young cellists on stage together.

Next we’ll hear the Honegger Concerto da Camera with seasoned SFCO principals Tod Brody on flute and Peter Lemberg on English horn. Not a widely played work, it remains a charming and accessible example of the composer’s modern style. Arthur Honegger, of the famed French group of composers called “Les Six,” was commissioned in early 1948 by Elizabeth Sprague-Coolidge to write the “Chamber Concerto” — a colorful and dynamic piece that’s possibly deserving of more attention today.

The SFCO commissioned Gloria Justen to write Not Created Nor Destroyed, for solo violin, solo violoncello, and string orchestra. Justen, a bicoastal violinist and composer, is certainly going places. Of the hip, young “composer-as-performer” ilk, as well as a master of the violin classics, she has a few surprises up her sleeve. Justen came to composing through her ability to improvise in many styles, and writes music for acoustic instruments, as well as digital sound collages incorporating electronics, field recordings, and surround sound concepts. Her first CD of original music, Four-Stringed Voice, is a collection of pieces for solo violin. As a performer, Justen tours with the Philip Glass Ensemble and is concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Justen writes of the new piece: “Not Created or Destroyed, for Solo Violin, Solo Cello, and String Orchestra ... refers to how energy in the universe does not appear or disappear, but changes form, structuring into matter and then disintegrating again into pure energy. The music explores certain interval relationships, meaning how two notes resonate with each other, which has a physical wave pattern and an emotional impact. For example, in the first movement, ‘Radiance,’ the perfect fifth is a building block. ... The second movement, ‘Breath,’ is more sorrowful, in a manner similar to Shostakovich’s music. Frozen dissonant chords (intervals of sevenths and ninths) form a backdrop for the duet of the soloists, with the viola part as a ‘breathing’ presence. The interval of the sixth is played by the soloists first as delicate ‘droplets’ and later as an inexorable ‘cascade.’ The third movement, ‘Pulses,’ is a quick and whirling piece that varies between a constantly rising and falling ‘stream,’ resonant plucked chords, and repeated static patterns.”

The concert finishes with Haydn’s Symphony No. 77 in B-flat Major, from his Esterházy years. Unlike other of his symphonies with titles such as the “Surprise,” the “Farewell,” or the “London,” this symphony was not named, so the SFCO held a naming contest at its Freight and Salvage concert in Berkeley last week. The winning title, by SFCO member Don Smiegiel, was “The Freight and Salvation.” (It’s not clear whether that will make it into the program notes.) The SFCO has made it a point to introduce such fun contests, including the opportunity to conduct the orchestra, favorite viola jokes, and others, on its Web site, under “Simon Says.”

Following the Haydn are encores by SFCO’s own composer in residence, Gabriela Lena Frank, who just won her first Latin Grammy award for Inca Dances, in the category Best Classical Contemporary Composition. It is performed and recorded by guitarist Manuel Barrueco with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano on Barrueco’s recent CD, Sounds of the Americas.

More about San Francisco Chamber Orchestra »
Feature Article
December 8, 2009

Music plays a huge role for Christians celebrating Christmas, both in the church liturgy and in the more secular practices of the season. The experience for Jews during Hanukkah is slightly different. Because Hanukkah is not a high holy day, its musical magic lies in the songs sung in homes, along with the resulting traditions and communities created. Plus, it helps solve what’s called, in hushed tones, the “December problem,” when the Western world seems ruled by Christmas customs.

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Artist Spotlight
December 8, 2009

Canadian-born pianist Marc-André Hamelin is recognized as one of the top talents in the concert hall today. He’s a champion of both undiscovered and standard piano repertoire, he’s prolific in the recording studio, and he’ll see his first published composition released next fall. Speaking to me from his Boston home, Hamelin declines to be defined by any one of these activities, especially his legendary technical ability. Rather, he’s a guy who’s just “trying to make music.”

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Upcoming Concert
November 23, 2009
The next San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra performance, like others before it, offers a chance to hear an incredibly talented, select group of students “on their game,” expressing their repertoire with the fresh energy of youth, a willingness to take chances, and the musical chops to carry it off. Yet it is also the embodiment of one individual’s musical journey. Soprano soloist Xi Wang, once the darling of the SFCM voice department, continues on her path toward an operatic career, one step at a time.

Xi Wang grew up in Zhengzhou, China. Somewhat of a prodigy, Xi studied voice from age 9, sang with the Children’s Opera House at age 10, and performed in recitals and even on her own television show, called Angel of Singing. The Chinese Ministry of Culture sponsored her debut recital in Beijing, and she performed for the vice president of China, Li Lanqing, in 2005. After starting college in Zhengzhou University, where she learned to sing in Russian from a visiting voice teacher, she was recruited to come to the U.S. and attend Brenau University, a small women’s college in Georgia.

“I wanted to study abroad in the West, since that’s the home of so much classical music,” she says. After finishing her bachelor’s degree there in 2007, Xi enrolled in the San Francisco Conservatory, attracted by the reputation of the voice department and the school’s many performance opportunities.

Says Pamela Fry, voice department chair and Xi’s teacher and mentor, “Her exquisitely beautiful sound is mesmerizing. It gets under the skin and leaves the listener wanting more.” No doubt that was a factor that contributed to Xi’s winning the school’s concerto competition last spring, and consequently her Dec. 5 appearance with the Conservatory Orchestra. Xi has now finished her master’s degree and moved on, winning a spot in the prestigious Artist Diploma in Opera program at the Cincinnati College–Conservatory of Music, one of only four singers accepted this year. She’s looking forward to singing her first big role, Lucia in Benjamin Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, there in February. “I really didn’t want to leave San Francisco, since it is so nice living here,” Xi said wistfully. “Professor Fry helped me realize that I needed a substantial operatic role in my repertoire in order to advance my career.”

Still, it’s a tough road. Xi was not accepted to the San Francisco Opera Center’s Merola Opera Program for summer of 2009, yet in a few years she’ll try again, along with auditioning for other young-artist programs such as those at Houston Grand Opera or Chicago Lyric, and in Seattle or Florida. Xi won first prize in the western region in the Metropolitan Opera Training Program auditions, held in Los Angeles in September 2008. That qualified her to compete in the Nationals in New York in February of this year, where she came away as one of 23 National semifinalists, just missing the top prize but gaining valuable experience and exposure. In this competitive environment, Xi says it’s important to have a mentor like Fry. “She not only taught me about singing, but still gives me so much support. She encouraged me to do competitions and helps me make decisions about the right steps for me.”

The Conservatory Orchestra concert will accompany this gifted young soprano in Richard Strauss’ Brentano Leider, and will also perform Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 3 and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98. Alasdair Neale, SFCM’s principal guest conductor and music director of the Marin Symphony, leads the show.

More about San Francisco Conservatory of Music »
Feature Article
November 3, 2009

The high school selection process has begun for next fall with a flurry of open houses, fairs, school visits, and application forms. When the dust settles, some 5,260 eighth-graders in San Francisco will choose a public school in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) for their high school experience. Kids who are talented and serious about getting the best musical education they can, do have a few excellent options. But most other high schools are struggling to find scarce resources for arts education and to meet the changing interests and needs of their students.

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Feature Article
October 21, 2009

It is with great curiosity and a little trepidation that I approach my first “Chant Camp,” presented by the singers of Anonymous 4 and Stanford University on, Monday, October 19. After all, although I’m a trained musician, I don’t really fit the category of “experienced amateur and professional singers who want to know more about the nuts and bolts of Western plainchant,” their announcement asked for.

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Artist Spotlight
October 20, 2009

Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony for eight years, violinist Alexander Barantschik has won the hearts of patrons with his wide range of talent. As soloist, conductor, and section leader, “Sasha,” as his colleagues call him, has become something of a rock star at Davies Symphony Hall. Classical Voice recently asked him about his upcoming performances of Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos (Nov. 18-20) and his life as a leader.

How is playing in the San Francisco Symphony different from playing with other orchestras you’ve been with?

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Artist Spotlight
October 13, 2009

Renaissance music aficionado William Lyons is known for his work with the Dufay Collective and as music director of London’s Globe Theatre. On Oct. 18, MusicSources presents his new ensemble, City Musick, in its first American tour.

Where did you grow up, and what bearing did that have on your becoming an early-music freak?

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Artist Spotlight
October 12, 2009

Robert Geary is expanding the envelope of modern choral music, building a body of repertoire by commissioning and performing new music with his three groups — Volti, the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, and the San Francisco Choral Society. On Oct. 18, the proud papa of Volti celebrates the group’s 30th anniversary with a special CD release and gala. SFCV caught up with him recently for a conversation.

What inspired you to start Volti?

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Upcoming Concert
October 12, 2009
If your kids are still too young for the traditional concert hall experience, they can certainly shake, rattle, and roll at The Crowden School’s free Community Music Day — the biggest classical jam session around for kids up through the age of 6, on Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Details here.)

About a thousand parents and children stop by to enjoy this annual event, with musical offerings customized to engage young children at their level. And for kids of this age group, that means hands-on. A favorite on the schedule is the Instrument Petting Zoo, where kids can touch, blow, and squawk sounds out of every orchestral instrument that catches their eyes and ears. Short class-demonstrations have families sing, dance, drum, or move together in true participatory fashion while getting to preview the class experience at Crowden first-hand. Also on the agenda are instrument-making sessions, performances by Crowden School students, a music sale, and a visit from “Mozart” himself. Of course, no festival would be complete without face painting, food, and prizes.

In a special collaboration with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, now three years running, the School will treat attendees to a concert experience that day, in a series called Very First Concerts (see details below). The 20-minute concert will be given at 11:00 a.m., with repeats at 11:40 a.m. and 12:20 p.m.

As Benjamin Simon, the SFCO’s musical director, describes it: “The program will introduce Mr. Béla Bartók, describe his tramping through the Hungarian/Romanian countryside in pursuit of folk tunes and how these folk tunes inspired his composing. Nine members of the S.F. Chamber Orchestra will be playing in our mini-orchestra; the repertoire will center on Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances and involve lots of dancing from our young audience. The idea is to introduce the idea of a composer, what they actually do, what might inspire them, and to show that they were (and are!) real, live human beings who just happen to write music.”

According to Crowden’s executive director, Doris Fukawa, Community Music Day and the Very First Concerts collaboration arose out of a realization that family concerts in the Bay Area are typically tailored to elementary and middle school children. “The youngest kids need to make noise and move around, and they have different attention spans and listening levels than older children. It can be stressful for parents to deal with these needs in a traditional concert hall setting, even one geared toward families. We saw a real niche-need to give families with kids aged 0–6 a joyful, age-appropriate experience with live classical music, and it’s proven a smash hit with audiences.”

Mark your calendars for the next in the series, coming to Crowden in January and June (for details visit here).

More about Crowden Music Center »
Upcoming Concert
October 5, 2009

If vocal chant is the most pure, devotional form of music (as was thought in the Middle Ages), then Anonymous 4 is its guardian angel. This female group of four a cappella singers has done much to preserve and expose this form of music through live performance and more than 20 recordings, even offering “Chant Camp” for those who want a deeper experience. The group performs its new program, “Secret Voices: Music From Las Huelgas, ca. 1300,” at Stanford Lively Arts on Oct. 21; Chant Camp is Oct. 19. 

Based in New York, Anonymous 4 consists of Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, and Ruth Cunningham. California native Genensky, originally a traditional folksinger, resides in Menlo Park and has been a visiting assistant professor at Stanford University. The group is known for its unearthly tonal blend and technical virtuosity, and possesses the necessary historical scholarship required for bringing this fascinating music to life. It has been a frequent guest at major festivals worldwide, has been featured on radio and TV programs such as A Prairie Home Companion and NPR’s Weekend Edition, and has sold some two million records on the Harmonia Mundi label.

Its new program comprises music from the Codex Las Huelgas, an extensive collection of polyphonic and monophonic music from the 13th and early 14th centuries. A listener coming for the first time to this music should realize that the education of women in that era was limited. Few were taught Latin or singing, or were even allowed to take part in worship, with the exception of women entering certain convents. Depending on the establishment, religious women were more or less simply given the skills and freedom to perform the Divine Office and to sing plainchant. Las Huelgas, or “the refuge,” was a Spanish nunnery founded for women of noble birth who wanted to pursue a spiritual life. Yet their strict Cistercian order forbade the singing of polyphony in most convents.

These headstrong royal nuns were having none of it. Says Susan Hellauer, “While there is some controversy about whether this wonderful 13th-century repertoire was sung by the nuns of the royal monastery of Las Huelgas or by their hired singers, [sources indicate] we’re following in the footsteps of our much older sisters, who collected and sang the greatest music of their time.”

The “Secret Voices” program is structured like a day of music devoted to the Virgin Mary, including a few songs with texts dealing with the daily lives of the nuns themselves. Among the pieces are elegant French love motets like Claustrum pudicicie/Virgo viget/Flos Filius, about pastoral love in the springtime. There are conductus with unpredictable rhythms and lively hockets. A playful Benedicamus Domino à 3 is written in rondellus fashion, like a catch or round typical of 13th-century British polyphony. Also to be sung are heartfelt laments, like the monophonic song O monialis conscio, written on the death of a beloved member of the sisterhood, and elegant duos with intertwining lines, like the sequences Verbum bonum et suave and In virgulto gracie.

But how, you might wonder, was this music notated? And exactly what is a “psalm tone”? And can plainchant really feel like a religious experience? For those who want to learn more and try this music first-hand, Anonymous 4 and Stanford Professors William Mahrt and Jesse Rodin will lead an evening “Chant Camp” on Monday, Oct. 19. For the curious and the aficionado alike, “Secret Voices” will provide a tantalizing glimpse into medieval history and the heart of the Western spiritual tradition, and sounds simply divine.

If you go:

Tickets for Anonymous 4’s “Secret Voices,” presented by Stanford Lively Arts on Wednesday, October 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Memorial Church, are $40 for adults and $10 for Stanford students. Half-price tickets are available for young people age 18 and under and discounts are available for groups and non-Stanford students. For tickets and more information, call 650-725-ARTS (2787), or visit

Tickets for Chant Camp on Monday, October 19 at 5:00 p.m. at Memorial Church are $10 for Anonymous 4 ticket holders and $20 for Chant Camp only. For reservations, call the Stanford Tickets Office at 650-725-ARTS (2787). Enrollment deadline is Friday, October 16.

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Upcoming Concert
September 22, 2009
The Marin Symphony's 2009-2010 opening concert starts with the quintessentially American music of George Gershwin. Add to the mix the personal anecdotes of the notable author Tobias Wolff, plus an exciting young pianist, and suddenly a 20th-century American ethos comes to life.

The Symphony, with Music Director Alasdair Neale on the podium, continues this brilliant thematic programming for the third season in a row, drawing parallels between classical music and other artistic disciplines. This season it's the written word — each concert includes a preconcert talk by a notable local writer discussing the influence of the evening's repertoire on his or her own art. As Marin Symphony Board President John R. Pitcairn says, "We're trying to show our audiences that artists of all types live and breathe classical music. So many people have the misperception that classical music is irrelevant today. On the contrary, it forms the bedrock of creative life in all disciplines."

The concert, titled "Playing the Grooves Off Gershwin," highlights one of America's most famous composers, born Jacob Gershowitz to Russian-Jewish parents in Brooklyn in 1898. Early in his career George Gershwin earned a living by making dozens of player-piano-roll recordings of his own tunes and popular songs of the day. He and his brother, lyricist Ira, collaborated on some 15 Broadway musicals. George wrote one opera, Porgy and Bess, as well as his orchestral music, before his life was cut short by a brain tumor; he died at age 38. One of his last concerts was with the San Francisco Symphony under Pierre Monteux in the year of his death, 1937.

Apparently Gershwin's composition An American in Paris is a favorite of the guest speaker and writer Tobias Wolff. Wolff is most famous for his short stories and memoirs. His books This Boy's Life and In Pharaoh's Army draw from his own horrible childhood

 experiences with a cruel stepfather, detailing how he orchestrated his own "escape" to a Pennsylvania prep school, and describing his stint with the Green Berets in Viet Nam.

He'll speak with Maestro Neale about his love for Gershwin's music and its impact on his own work at 6:30 p.m. Additional scribes to be presented throughout the season as adjuncts to the performance are Barbara Quick, Roger Housden, Jane Anderson, and Susan Kinsolving (with composer David Carlson).

The opening concert also brings a musical poet to the stage, the dashing young pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi, performing Rhapsody in Blue. A native of Japan, Nakagoshi has been in the U.S. since he was 18, when he began studying both composition and piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). In 2007, he was selected for a highly coveted professional training workshop with Emanuel Ax, which culminated in performances in Carnegie Hall. Nakagoshi recently toured many American cities as principal pianist for conductor George Daughtery's award-winning show "Bugs Bunny on Broadway," and he is a staff accompanist at SFCM. A pianist with unbelievable chops as well as mature and thoughtful interpretation, Nakagoshi is sure to have an interesting career.

Literati, this Marin Symphony season's for you! And with additional guest soloists, like violinists Elizabeth Pitcairn and Vadim Guzman, conductor Edward Abrahams, and soprano Christine Brewer, there's enough to keep the rest of us happy, too.

More about Marin Symphony »
Upcoming Concert
September 14, 2009
This October, don’t miss a chance to hear what a bright new generation of piano trios is bringing to the stage. Two young yet established groups come to the Bay Area to open two favorite chamber music series with a flourish. The Trio Con Brio Copenhagen kicks off the season for Music at Kohl Mansion on Oct. 4, while the Eroica Trio launches the 54th Morrison Artists Series at San Francisco State University on Oct. 9.

Trio Con Brio Copenhagen — consisting of Korean sisters Soo-Jin Hong, violin, and Soo-Kyung Hong, cello, and Danish pianist Jens Elvekjaer — was founded in Vienna a decade ago. After winning the prestigious ARD-Munich Competition and later the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson International Trio Award in 2005, it quickly established its reputation as “rising stars” among audiences and critics alike by touring internationally.

Bay Area new-music fans might have caught its performance of Norwegian composer Bent Sørensen’s Phantasmagoria at the Other Minds Festival last year, which SFCV reviewed as “hard to describe, though the effect was magical — and the highlight of the festival.” Trio Con Brio will recap this piece on its concert, as well as play traditional jewels by Beethoven and Smetana.

Beethoven’s Trio No. 5 in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1, called the “Ghost,” is one of his most famous works for that configuration of instruments, dating from his “middle period” and composed in Heiligenstadt, Vienna. The Smetana Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 15 was the first of several pieces to be inspired by the tragic loss of the composer’s 4-year-old daughter in 1855; like some of his other compositions, it contains stylistic elements of both Schumann and Liszt, and runs the emotional gamut from anguish, to joy, and finally to a feeling of closure.

An ensemble that’s perhaps slightly more well-known to American audiences is the Eroica Trio, one of the first all-female ensembles to attain recognition as being in the top-tier; its members are Erika Nickrenz, piano; Susie Park, violin; and Sara Sant’Ambrogio, cello. Formed almost a decade earlier than Con Brio, it captured the prestigious Naumburg Award in 1991, followed by its Carnegie Hall debut in 1997. The trio plays from a extremely wide repertoire, as witnessed by its eight recordings on EMI of everything from Baroque to its newest album available in mid-October, An American Journey, and has earned Grammy nominations for several of them.

Aside from the marketing machine that has capitalized on their good looks, placing them in magazines such as Elle, Glamour, and Vanity Fair, this trio has earned some serious concert hall “cred” for its raw energy and expressive playing. It will give listeners the early Beethoven Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1, No. 3, first performed in 1793 in the house of Prince Lichnowsky. The Brahms Trio in B Major, Op. 8 is an early work of that composer, as well, and was almost destroyed by him, thrown into the fire, as were other fledgling pieces that did not meet his stiff requirements. It was, instead, one of his first pieces to be published in 1854. Over 30 years later he revised the work at the suggestion of his publisher Simrock, devising a new version that’s the one mostly played today. The finale movement from Joan Tower’s trio For Daniel (2004) adds a more contemporary twist to the program.

The Morrison Artists Series annually presents six free chamber music concerts on the campus of S.F. State, including one in December by the university’s own quartet in residence, the Alexander String Quartet. The Eroica Trio is “coming home,” having enjoyed its West Coast debut on the series in 1990. They and the Trio Con Brio Copenhagen are taking the torch from the older generation, capitalizing on the energy of youth and the maturity of their years together to help reinvent the future of chamber music.

More about Music at Kohl »
Upcoming Concert
August 21, 2009
Patrons of chamber music presenters around the world are familiar with typical ensembles like the string quartet or the piano trio; not so much the woodwind quintet, which tends to be treated like a poor cousin. Yet those who know its rich repertoire and tonal possibilities realize how much the quintet has to offer. San Francisco’s Quinteto Latino is generating further interest in this type of ensemble by unearthing brilliant music by Mexican and other Latin American classical composers rarely heard in North America. Their concert at Old First Concerts on Sept. 11 features tangos, habaneras, and waltzes that will leave you dancing in your seat.

The Quintet — Diane Grubbe, flute; Kyle Bruckmann, oboe; Leslie Tagorda, clarinet; Armando Castellano, French horn; and Shawn Jones, bassoon — was formed by Castellano in 2001. The current personnel (with the exception of new member Jones) have played together since 2004. All are conservatory-trained musicians. Says Castellano: “In the course of my great training in classical music, I never heard or discussed music from Latin America. When I later had work in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, I found a thriving classical music culture all over Latin America. There is a long history of composers, from colonization on, that wrote classical music.”

Castellano formed the Quinteto Latino as a response to the feeling that this important music was being overlooked in North America. In a society where there are few people of color in major symphony orchestras, or elsewhere on the classical scene, Armando hopes the quintet and its emphasis on Latino composers can function as something of a role model for youths of diverse ethnic backgrounds. “It provides a point of connection for kids to hear a classical music that evokes their culture and language,” he says. To this end, the quintet is heavily involved with educational concerts and workshops through both the San Francisco Symphony’s Adventures in Music program and Young Audiences of Northern California.

And through this music, Quinteto Latino is sharing an indigenous ethos. “I’m of Mexican descent; my grandparents were from Mexico. I was brought up here in the U.S., but around things that were typical of Mexican culture, like music, family, foods, folk-dancing, and values,” says Castellano. “The music illustrates this tenderness, interaction, and passion.” Clarinetist Leslie Tagorda agrees that such elements can be heard in the music they play. “Most of what we do is grounded in movement and dance,” she says. “The underlying thread in all this music is the rhythm. The types of rhythms, beats, and syncopations make it different from other Western classical music.”

On Sept. 11, Quinteto Latino showcases three Mexican composers, including Carlos Chávez, arguably Mexico’s most important composer. His Soli No. 2, with its neoclassical elements, is the more contemporary-sounding piece on the program; the rest are melodic, with a jazzy, rhythmic intensity. Arturo Márquez’ Danza de mediodia is on the bill; he is known for incorporating native musical forms and styles into his orchestral pieces. Mario Lavista’s Cinco danzas breves is a dance collection written in 1992 for wind quintet. In addition, they’ll play Aires tropicales by Cuban jazz musician Paquito d’Rivera, and the group plans a folk music set, as well. All the pieces were written since 1970.

If you like what you hear, you can also hear the quintet on Chamber Music Day, Saturday, Sept. 26. Visit the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music Web site for details, at

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Artist Spotlight
July 20, 2009

George Cleve is the conductor and founder of the Midsummer Mozart Festival. He was conductor of the San Jose Symphony for 20 years, and continues to conduct both in the U.S. and abroad.

Congratulations on the 35th season of the Midsummer Mozart Festival. What factors do you consider when programming the festival after all of these years?

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Upcoming Concert
July 13, 2009
The number of talented young singers in the Bay Area is about to increase exponentially, as the Golden Gate International Children’s and Youth Choral Festival gets under way, July 13-18. Top youth choirs from as far away as China, Taiwan, Denmark, and Finland, along with American choirs from California to Colorado to Mississippi, gather for a week of rehearsals, public performances, friendly competition, and cultural exchange. The festival marks the eighth year that cofounder Robert Geary and the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir have hosted the festival.

Geary was honored with a Peace Child International Medal for cofounding the festival in 1993. Since then, the event has been held every two, now three, years. Top choirs, with children from 6 to 18, are chosen by audition to participate in the highly selective festival. Visitors are housed with local families, which enables cultural exchange and ultimately creates young musical ambassadors.

The award-winning Finnish choir Vox Aurea, directed by conductor Pekka Kostiainen, is the festival’s special guest ensemble, which will entertain throughout the week. Vox Aurea and Denmark’s MidtVest Pigekor are the featured ensembles on the Preview Concert, Sunday, July 12 at 2 p.m. at the San Leandro Main Library. The week continues with nightly community concerts at various Bay Area venues, most concerts being free.

Historic/Folk Competitions are held at First Congregational Church of Berkeley on July 15-17, when choirs will showcase indigenous music to the public. Also public is the contemporary music competition, which unfolds on Thursday the 17th at Oakland’s Mormon Interstake Center. Additionally, 35 choristers will compete in a vocal solo competition, closed to the public. A special Gala Closing Concert tops off the week, with all 500-plus voices on stage, led by a celebrated conductor and the lead competition adjudicator, Bob Chilcott. Festival Chair Robert Cole, along with concert emcee Sara Cahill, will welcome the audience, which will be treated to music by the competition winners of the week, on Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall.

For members of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, the festival is a learning opportunity. Both the training choir and select choirs are invited to sing along during opening and closing ceremonies, and to get to know some of their visitors on the week’s excursions. With the common love of music, new friends lead to new understandings. It’s a small world, after all.

GGF Participating Choirs

  • Cantabella Children’s Chorus, from California
  • Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale, from Colorado
  • Hangzhou Aiyue Tianshi Choir, from The People’s Republic of China
  • Kaohsiung Municipal Children’s Chorus, from Taiwan
  • MidtVest Pigekor, from Denmark
  • Mississippi Boychoir, from Mississippi
  • Ragazzi Young Mens’ Enemble, from California
  • SingersMarin, from California
  • Vox Aurea, from Finland

For a full description of public events, visit the Web site.

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